the one where we remember and hope...
November 2, 2015, 9:00 AM

All Saints' Day

Sermon Text: John 11: 32-44

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

It has been one year since we last gathered to remember those who have died in our lives. This year – especially for me – is a little different than in years past. Our state has suffered greatly this past summer, our area has seen devastating events take place. All of those events have involved death.

Death in how those called to serve kill those who they are to protect. Those who are called to serve be killed by the ones who they are called to protect. Single individuals who inflict so much pain and death because of the color of someone’s skin. A one-in-a-lifetime storm that has caused so much damage and death. Then news last week of a Mid Carolina High school student who was killed in a hunting accident.

Accidents. Intentional acts of violence. Natural disasters. Death in so many varied and senseless ways.

Death is always visceral. Death is always painful.

Whether it happens to you, happens near you, or happens far away.

The news of death makes us weep, it beckons us at times to cry out with Mary – “Where were you?! If you were there – if you were here – then they wouldn’t have died!”

This morning we remember nine from our community who have died since the last time our community gathered on All Saints Day. We remember Ruth, Tom, Mildred, Connie, Kathleen, Carolyn, Harriett, Helen, and Warren. Some deaths might have been ‘expected’ because of age or illness. Some were too soon; some were after years or months of terrible illness. No matter how death has affected this community – affected you – it always hurts. It is always painful. We always weep.

All Saints day is a great celebration, but it is also a weird celebration as well. This is a day that it is a mix of joy and sorry. Of loss and anticipation.

We remember those we know who have died, we weep and mourn. Yet, we still celebrate the eternal life to come – the promise of the resurrection. This is a day as I read earlier this week – that we smile through our tears, trusting in God’s promise that all our yesterdays are just a prelude to a glorious and never ending tomorrow.

As we read the gospel this morning, one thing jumps out at me so clearly. It is one of the shortest verses in all of scripture. It simply states that Jesus weeps.

In our second reading, we see the titles and labels of the divine and cosmic as Jesus announces that he is the alpha and the omega. The beginning and the end. In other places are the titles and labels of messiah, Christ, Lord, Word, incarnate.

In more ways than one, we cannot understand those things. We have no way to identify with them. Yet, we trust and hope that all those labels – all those titles – all of that is for us. We have trust and faith that in all those identities that others have given Jesus and that Jesus has claimed to be – that it is God at work in God’s son.

Yet, in this text. On this day. We know how Jesus feels. We can identify with him. Jesus weeps because his friend has died.

All of us have lost someone to death. Some more recently than others. All painfully. All weeping.

Have you ever thought about this verse before? Jesus wept.

Jesus – the son of God – the Word incarnate. The alpha and omega. The beginning and the end. Weeps. Jesus weeps.

Gods aren’t supposed to weep. Some might even say men aren’t supposed to weep.

Gods are supposed to be strong in the times of sadness and death.

Yet Jesus weeps. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot cry when the son of God has no problems showing his emotion.

Showing emotion out of his hurt in what Mary says to him. Out of his frustration that death is seen as more prevalent than the life that Jesus proclaims. In the sadness that his friend has died.

Jesus weeps.

What I remember most on this day above all other days, is that not only is this a day that we remember those who have died, but we remember a God who is so present with us that he weeps. Jesus weeps at each death we experience.

When a loved one dies at the end of a full and long life? Jesus weeps.

When a loved one suffers through a terrible and tragic accident or illness? Jesus weeps.

When one in God’s creation unleashes senseless harm and violence upon others? Jesus weeps.

When nature lets loose upon the land and many die? Jesus weeps.

Jesus weeps out of love and care for each of us – just as Jesus wept for his friend Lazarus

Yet, Jesus doesn’t stop there. Jesus doesn’t just cry and move on. Jesus acts.

Full of emotion – sadness, mourning, even anger – Jesus goes to the tomb where his friend’s body lies. He instructs the people to roll away the stone. He insists even when the people around him – Martha included – try to explain that it is of no use. He’s gone. He has begun to smell.

Roll the stone away.

Lazarus! Come out!

And Lazarus does. He shambles out still wrapped in the clothes of death, the smell still lingering in the tomb.

This is a pivotal moment of John’s gospel. It is after this sign of God that those in power around Jesus will put into place the plan to dispose of him any way that they can. As the bands of cloth are unwrapped from Lazarus’ body, we remember that Jesus too will be wrapped up. As Lazarus walks out of the tomb, we remember that Jesus will be going in. As Jesus calls out of the tombs of our lives, Jesus is then going to enter into those places for us as well.

Jesus willfully enters into death so that the sting of death will be no more. Jesus defiantly faces death – and will win. He goes in to take our place in that victory over sin and death.

The message today is one of remembrance and hope.  We are called upon today to remember all the saints who have gone before us – both those who were great and shining examples of Christian character and virtue and those who were known only to a few and whose greatest virtue may have been only that they clung tenaciously to the promise of God in Christ to love them no matter what.

We look back with fondness of those who died, but are no longer with us. Their memories still fresh in our minds whether they died two months ago or 40 years ago. Yet, as we remember we look forward with desire and anticipation. We wait in expectant hope that what God has brought in Jesus is for us as well. That it is truth. That in Jesus we have life. We have faith and trust that God in Christ will do for us what Jesus did for his friend Lazarus. That we will be called out of our own tombs on that final – on that first – day in the life of God.

Where on that day we can and will live into the promises that Isaiah proclaimed that death will be swallowed up forever and that God will indeed wipe away every tear, where death will be no more, where weeping and mourning and pain will be no more.

On this All Saints day, we are invited to trust in this weeping and compassionate God. The one who cares so much that he sheds tears at our sorrows and hurt – at his own sorrows and hurt. Where we have hope that this God whom we call Lord, will make all things new, for us and for all of creation. Amen.

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